The Flightless Cormorant

“Mom, why do some birds have wings but can’t fly?” wondering one asks.

Normally I have to send wondering ones to their father for such questions but this time I have an answer and can’t wait to share it.

I turn from wiping down the counters and face Wonder, trying not to scare him with my eager anticipation. “Son, sometimes they forget how to use them.”

The story unfolds on the Galapagos Islands, the story of the flightless cormorant. All cormorants can fly, except the ones on these islands. Why? The scientists wondered. Why do these cormorants have wings but cannot fly?

Some unbelieving scientists jump at the opportunity to make a chaotic, convoluted case for evolution. One more link in the chain.

Christian scientists- Creationists- have no case to prove, just a simple, profound foundation from which they work: that God Created and that He blesses and that He gives the gift of adaptation.

With a basic understanding of our Creator as revealed in Scripture, the story of the flightless cormorant is easy to imagine… and the parallels to us easy to see. Cormorants arrived at Galapagos and thrived on the bounty of island life. In this beautiful, protected environment, the cormorants find an absence of land predators, meaning that they don’t need to fly for survival.

And for food?  Without the need to fly, they simply devote their entire life developing their God-given secondary skill for diving. All cormorants are natural fisher-birds, with their long beaks and webbed feet. The Galapagos Island cormorants have perfected the art.

Over time, these birds have adapted to a flightless lifestyle. Their bodies reflect these adaptations with shortened wings and a smaller keel, the place on the breastbone that supports the large flight muscles. Instead, the legs are heavier and more powerful.

Smaller wings means the cormorant is a better swimmer…but it has lost the ability to soar.

Relying too heavily on secondary giftings is the pathway to loosing what one was intended for.

I know this in my soul, as Creator tells me the story of the flightless cormorant and then explains why it is vital that I know: “The North American church is like the flightless cormorant.”

Hasn’t God blessed us with material abundance and resources beyond measure? Is this not the blessing of God?

Yet have we turned to these and relied on them so heavily that we have outgrown our need for His Spirit to lift us and enable us to do the impossible?

One might simply ponder the question, “What if all our resources were suddenly gone? What if we had no ability to pay pastors and staff, buy workbooks and curriculum…what if we lost our buildings and all the resources that generate programs, activities, good feelings that we are safe, well-padded, alright?

“If we suddenly lost all that… would we have the wings to soar?”

Would we know how to stretch wide and kick hard and believe deep and let God? Are we learning these things in our resource-driven Western Christianity? Or have we lost our wings?

Have we under-developed keels?

Is not the fact that 80% of our children grow up and leave the church proof that we are failing to pass on the ability to soar?

Do we only have silver and gold ministries to offer the lame beggar on the temple steps? Or can we, like Peter, say, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have, I give to you: In the name of Jesus, WALK!” (Acts 3:6)

All year these things have niggled me. All year I have seen how we, as a culture and for the most part, live the Christian life in the flesh. All year I have been sickened by how much of my life, my 12 years in the ministry as a church planter and missionary, have been lived relying on secondary skills.

The secondary skills aren’t the problem.

The forgetting what we are made for is.

We were made for Spirit wings to indwell us, fill us, empower us, carry us to places secondary blessings never can. We were made for “abundantly above all we ask or imagine,” from Him and to Him and by Him and for Him.

We were made for the kind of indwelling power that raised Christ from the dead. And we are content with diving?

All year I have approached His elbow. “So Father,” I ask and He slows to listen to me. “How is it that we can learn to fly again? How is it that we can be filled to the fullness of God by Your Spirit? How is it that we can get our wings back, stop over-relying on secondary giftings and do what we are made to do?”

He turns to me in eager anticipation, answer ready, thrilled to be asked by a wondering child. “I thought you’d never ask,” He whispers. “Come closer.”

And I embrace His answer…

{to be continued as I live it out}

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4 Comments on “The Flightless Cormorant”

  1. […] Yet the fact still remains that while materially blessed to the point of obesity, we are spiritual infants. Powerless. We consume resource after resource, attend seminar and conferences, yet  we do not say to the weak, wounded beggar, “In the name of Jesus, get up and walk.” […]

  2. […] Journal, you know that I have grown tired, oh so tired, of living the Christian life in the flesh. The pages here record a God who calls, moves, and invites to something profoundly different: a Christian life fully lived in the power of the Spirit, for the glory of God. […]

  3. […] Our approach in Western Christianity is to make everything a formula. Our independent, affluent, self sufficient culture sort of makes this our default. […]


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